French roast beef, also known as pot roast provencal or boeuf provençale, is a traditional French dish of slow-cooked sub-prime cuts of beef cooked with a hearty stew of vegetables. The meat and vegetables simmer in the meat broth for up to two hours, allowing the meat to become tender and the vegetables flavored by the broth.
Cuts of Beef
French roasts are usually made with either boneless chuck or rolled rump roast. Boneless chuck is a cut of beef from the upper shoulder of the cow, and it is also used to make ground beef. It has a fairly even balance of meat and fat. Rolled rump roast comes from the cow's hip area. It is a thick piece of meat that is sold by butchers rolled and tied with twine. Because of its thickness it has a tendency to dry out, and so is more often used for roasting rather than broiling.
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Cooking a French pot roast requires time to allow the sub-prime cuts of beef, which have a tendency to become dry, to cook and become tender. Generally, French roasts are flavored with salt, peppercorn, garlic and a variety of herbs, including bay leaf and thyme. The meat is cooked in a Dutch oven for two and a half hours before the vegetables are added and cooked for another half hour. This slow cooking allows the rolled rump roast and the ground chuck to cook without drying out. To reduce cooking time, French pot roast can also be cooked in a pressure cooker at 15 lbs. for an hour to an hour and a half.
How It's Served
Once the meat and vegetables become tender, the beef broth is drained from the roast and the pot roast is typically cut into 1/4 inch slices. These slices are then served with the vegetables. Vegetables included in French roast typically include carrots, onions, turnips, celery and potatoes. These vegetables are cut thickly into quarters.
The French dip sandwich is a popular food that is made from the meat of French roast. The 1/4 inch cuts of beef are placed on a baguette and the sandwich is served hot. The beef broth obtained from the slow-cooking process is served on a small dish on the side of the sandwich for dipping. The broth is called "au jus," a French phrase literally meaning "with juice." Despite its name, the French dip originated in Los Angeles, California in the early part of the 20th century.